Our list of women in philosophy features famous philosophers who have been highly cited and searched online over the last 10 years. This inspirational list includes academics and professionals interested in ethics, feminist theory, critical race theory, and even animal philosophy.
According to the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, philosophy is
a reasoned pursuit of fundamental truths, a quest for understanding, a study of principles of conduct… Philosophy develops the capacity to see the world from the perspective of other individuals and other cultures. Women philosophers are raising new questions and offering new perspectives in ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy of mind, and feminist philosophy. The field of feminist philosophy
is aimed at understanding and challenging the oppression of women…Feminist philosophers question the structures and institutions that regulate our lives.
Contributions by current scholars include feminist critiques of liberalism (Nussbaum), the intersection of information technology and feminist theory (Haraway), philosophy of religion (Anderson), virtue ethics (Nussbaum, Foot), and the use and misuse of language in relation to women (Irigaray).
about the modern predisposition to totalitarianism and threats to human freedom posed by both scientific abstraction and bourgeois morality.
Nancy Fraser is a critic of contemporary liberal feminism and identity politics. She is the Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science and professor of philosophy at The New School. She earned her B.A. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr and her Ph.D in philosophy from the City University of New York Graduate Center.
Her work on the conceptions of justice and injustice have led her to the conclusion that justice can be viewed in two ways: distributive justice (related to equitable distribution of resources), and justice of recognition (related to recognition of identity). Likewise, injustice can be viewed as either maldistribution or misrecognition. In her view, society’s recent preoccupation with the injustice of misrecognition has diverted attention and resources from the ongoing problems of maldistribution.
Fraser has been International Research Chair in Social Justice for Collège d’études mondiales in Paris, a visiting professor in women’s rights for University of Cambridge and Senior fellow for the Center for Advanced Studies, “Justitia Amplificata,” in Frankfurt. She is president of the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division. In 2018, she was honored with the Nessim Habif World Prize by The Graduate Institute, the Award for Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship by the Havens Center for Social Justice at the University of Wisconsin, and the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur.
Currently, Martha Nussbaum holds the position of Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. Too influential to be confined to one department, Nussbaum is appointed to the faculty of both the philosophy department and the law school. As an undergraduate, Nussbaum spent two years at Wellesley College, before deciding to pursue theatre studies at New York University. After, Nussbaum completed her graduate studies and PhD at Harvard University.
With roots in ancient philosophy and classics, Nussbaum is a significantly influential voice of feminism and liberalism. Her work draws on Aristotelianism and ancient Greek tragedy to investigate contemporary feminist theory and issues. Nussbaum also investigates the philosophy of emotion, often finding overlap between these realms, such as tying justice and ethics to questions about human flourishing. In her books Hiding from Humanity and From Disgust to Humanity, Nussbaum examined the role of shame and disgust in legal judgements and law, arguing that these notions cannot be the basis of truly just law. Similarly, in Sex and Social Justice, Nussbaum provided a feminist critique of liberalism, building on the notion of objectification, to show how sex and gender can be and is used as a tool of oppression, particularly of marginalized groups.
Sally Haslanger, currently appointed the Ford Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), completed her undergraduate education at Reed College in 1977, and earned her PhD in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley in 1985. Currently one of the most influential people in philosophy, Haslanger has previously held appointments in the Ivy league, at Princeton University and at the University of Pennsylvania.
Haslanger’s work and influence are broad. Starting her career in the areas of analytic metaphysics and epistemology, Haslanger has since built on ancient philosophy foundations to create notable work in the realms of social and political philosophy. Haslanger is perhaps best known for her work in feminist theory and critical race theory, applying ancient and metaphysical principles (such as Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory) to these relatively modern areas of inquiry, especially in regards to the notion of social construction. On that topic, Haslanger has been a formidable voice, publishing groundbreaking pieces investigating and analyzing social categories that are traditionally seen as universal and unquestionable. Haslanger’s work is perhaps best represented in the book Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique, which collects two decades of her papers, covering and connecting topics including epistemology, metaphysics, and social and gender issues.
Panama-born Linda Martin Alcoff is currently appointed as a professor of philosophy at Hunter College of the City University of New York. Alcoff earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1980 at Georgia State University, as well as her MA in 1983, and in 1987 earned her PhD in philosophy at Brown University. In her career, Alcoff has also held positions at Kalamazoo College, Syracuse University, Cornell University, and Brown University, among others.
Alcoff is best known for her intersectional approach to issues of race, gender, identity, and epistemology. Alcoff identifies location as a major component in both self-identity and how we identify and relate to others. In particular, Alcoff is known for an essay titled “The Problem of Speaking for Others,” in which she analyzed the discourse we use to speak of other people, finding rhetorical (and epistemic) tendencies for domination and mastery. Accordingly, Alcoff has been a vocal advocate of greater recognition and inclusion of marginalized and underrepresented groups in philosophy, allowing these groups to fully and accurately represent and speak for themselves.